Auckland skipper Mike Sanderson enjoyed a dream start to Leg 5 as his Team Sanya led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet over the line and around the inshore course on his home waters.

Sanya smoked their five rivals off the start line, enjoying better breeze in a commanding position to round the first mark ahead of Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

Home side CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand locked horns with overall race leaders Telefónica early on as they tussled for position coming up to the first mark.

Telefónica forced CAMPER towards the spectator fleet, and, rather than turning away, CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson dodged and weaved between the hundreds of boats that lined the course giving fans a close-up view of a powered-up Volvo Open 70.

Groupama sailing team brought up the rear of the fleet – but with 6,705 nautical miles of ocean racing ahead of them, no team will be placing too much on the leaving positions.

The teams are heading straight for a real trial by the elements.

According to race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante the already well developed South Pacific low pressure system to the north east of Auckland is set to intensify as it moves towards the colder waters of the Southern Ocean.

“It’s a heat machine right now,” Infante said. “As it interacts with the cooler air off New Zealand it could generate some big winds -- 30 knots up to maybe even 50 or 60 knots.”

Three new sailors have been added to the crew lists in Auckland. Anthony Nossiter from Australia is joining Abu Dhabi to replace the outgoing trimmer/helmsman Justin Ferris, while for the current leg only Finnish Olympic gold medal winner Thomas Johanson takes over from injured Kelvin Harrap on PUMA and Danish Olympic gold medallist Martin Kirketerp steps in on Sanya for Ryan Houston who picked up a kidney infection.

It will be a baptism of fire for the new crewmembers.

“Right now all our focus is on the weather forecast, which looks absolutely diabolical for the first 36 hours,” said Ian Walker, skipper of fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. “We just have to prepare our boat and our people as best we can.”

PUMA skipper Read added: “It’s going to be boat-breaking and person-breaking weather, and I think the smart will prevail.”

Leg 5 is expected to last around 18 days.

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